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Wilmington ballpark financing plan unveiled

Carolina LeagueA private developer would borrow money to build a new ballpark for a High Class A Carolina League team, with Wilmington (N.C.) and Mandalay Baseball Properties paying down the debt over time.

The ballpark, which would be home to an Atlanta Braves farm team in the form of the relocating Lynchburg Hillcats, is projected to cost between $33.2 million and $35.7 million (not including land costs). Under the broad outlines of the current funding proposal, a local developer — Flywheel/Trask — would borrow the money and build the ballpark. The developer would continue to own the ballpark, thus generating property taxes for the county, but the city and Mandalay paying on the debt. At a annual rent of $350,000 over 30 years, Mandalay and the Braves would cover a little less than a third of the cost of the facility. The developer would also retain naming rights and share any proceeds past $350,000 annually with the city, as well as share a chunk of ticket revenues past 300,000 sales annually. At the end of the 30-year financing period, the ballpark would be given to Wilmington.

But the issue, a huge one in the tax-averse city, is where the rest of the money to pay down ballpark debt would come from. And it’s very possible this won’t actually move the discussion very much: on June 19 the city will receive a report from National Sports Services on ballpark siting and economic issues, and the results of that study will do much, much more to forward the discussion. Until then, the debate over the city’s role in a ballpark will continue. 

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